Going outside was an inconvenience!

Richard Cornwell's childhood home at 47 Alexandra Road, Ipswich.

Richard Cornwell's childhood home at 47 Alexandra Road, Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

MY revelation that we didn’t have an indoor toilet until I was nearly 15 has certainly provoked plenty of conversation – and astonishment.

A familiar childhood memory - a tin bath on an outhouse wall.

A familiar childhood memory - a tin bath on an outhouse wall. - Credit: Archant

Now I have another equally shocking disclosure. I had to use a tin bath until that time, too.

Richard Cornwell - after having been scrubbed clean for school in the old tin bath.

Richard Cornwell - after having been scrubbed clean for school in the old tin bath. - Credit: Archant

We were not the only ones either. Britain 35 years ago still had plenty of homes where a loo with rainwater coming under the door and huge spiders and weevils running about the floor, and a tin bath hanging on an outside wall, were commonplace.

I didn’t know any different.

When I was a toddler in Bury St Edmunds, our toilet in St John’s Place was across a yard and down an alley where ours was the middle one of three standing side by side.

Then in Ipswich, the toilet was just outside the back door of our first house – the bath thankfully inside but doubled as a kitchen work surface, which was lifted off at bath-time – and at the next (both were in Alexandra Road – numbers 48 and 47) it was in the yard (the stone toilet painted red with a lovely warm wooden seat), next door to the coal shed. And yes – we had coal fires; no central heating. If you were cold playing in your bedroom, you put on a jumper or two.

At this house the bath was a tin one – it made a tremendous noise if a football clattered into it on its wall.

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On a Sunday night we would put down old Evening Stars on the kitchen floor, bring the bath inside, and fill it from the kitchen tap using the washing up bowl. It took ages.

In winter, it was a cold and horrible experience. After drying as quickly as possible with a towel, we would run into the living room to sit in our pyjamas in front of the fire to dry our hair.

One agile cat we owned use to love walking around the very edge of the bath. He fell in once and caused an enormous mess.

My great aunt and uncle, with whom I holidayed each year at their Norfolk smallholding, also had a tin bath and their toilet in an outhouse was simply a bucket with a few planks of wood on top and a hole to sit over. The hole had a cover I used to think of as a large wooden saucepan lid.

The waste was simply thrown on the heap with the pig muck.

One of my grandparents had a toilet at the bottom of the garden – up a flight of steps (which my mother fell down when pregnant with me) and a long walk in the rain.

My great grandmother had a double outside loo – where you could sit side by side and chat!

It was a very different world – not so long ago and yet hard to imagine anyone living like that today.